Patterico's Pontifications

6/19/2024

A 12-Year Old Girl Is A Child, No Matter What Any Pastor Claims

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:15 am



[guest post by Dana]

I have a lot to say about this and the evangelical church at large, but for now I’ll just address the audacity of this lying jackal:

Robert Morris, founding pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, which attracts an estimated 100,000 worshipers weekly, has confessed to “inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady” more than 35 years ago while he was a young pastor after a woman accused him of sexually abusing her over multiple years beginning when she was 12.

“When I was in my early twenties, I was involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying. It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong. This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years,” Morris said in a statement to The Christian Post after Gateway Church was asked about the allegations.

From Morris’s accuser:

Morris’ accuser, Cindy Clemishire, first told The Wartburg Watch that he began sexually abusing her on Dec. 25, 1982, and continued with the abuse for four-and-a-half years after that. When contacted by CP (Christian Post). . . the 54-year-old grandmother confirmed the details in the report but insisted she was no “young lady” when Morris began abusing her.

“I’m, of course, just appalled,” Clemishire told CP. . .about his description of her as a “young lady.”

“I was 12 years old. I was a little girl. A very innocent little girl. And he was brought into our home. He and his wife, Debbie, and their little boy, Josh, and trusted and preached at the church that my dad helped start and then began grooming all of us to do this, which took me decades to wrap my brain around as an adult,” she said.

“It went on for many years. He says there was no sexual intercourse, but he did touch every part of my body and inserted his fingers into me, which I understand now is considered a form of rape by instrumentation. I was an innocent 12-year-old little girl who knew nothing about sexual behavior.

Can we be straight about this? A girl 12 years old is a child. Period. Referring to her as a “young lady” though gives the appearance that it was another adult involved in inappropriate but not illegal sexual acts. It hides the fact that a child was sexually preyed upon by an adult and that the “inappropriate sexual behavior” was actually the sexual molestation of a child, which is a criminal act.

It’s reprehensible and yet all too common that a pastor who commits sexual sin, and in this case involving a child, believes he has a right to return to the pulpit, or foolishly believes that God needs him to lead. Just because Morris took time off from the pulpit for restoration does not mean that he belongs back in a place of leadership in the church. Quite clearly, God doesn’t *need* for anything or anyone. If there is true repentance (not for show), that’s good. It’s scriptural. But God doesn’t need Morris back in the pulpit to get His message out. The very presence of Morris back in the pulpit, and others like him, makes a mockery of God and becomes a stumbling block for the church body (if they have even been made aware of the situation).

And don’t get me started on the “elders” who participated in this alleged “come to Jesus” restoration period while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the *crime* that took place. It’s a vile poison that flows through the modern church when the playbook demands a circling of the wagons to support, at all costs, the one in the pulpit who draws in the masses that fill the seats and in turn, fill the coffers as well.

As Clemishire put it:

“I don’t think he ever should have been allowed to be in the ministry. We would never allow someone to go teach in a school … work in a daycare or be a doctor if anybody had done these things. And I have a very difficult time believing I’m the only one,” Clemishire said.

On top of everything horrible about this, Clemishire was later blamed for the abuse by Morris’s wife, who said she “forgave” Clemishire for what happened. And in 2005, when Clemishire secured an attorney to file a civil suit against Morris, his attorney’s response implied that they believed it was her fault because she was “flirtatious.”

Wolves in sheep’s clothing, one must be vigilant.

Note: “Pastor” Morris has resigned:

Just days after allegations surfaced that he molested a 12-year-old girl in the 1980s, Pastor Robert Morris has resigned from his Dallas megachurch, Gateway Church.

In a statement released to media today, Gateway claimed it did not know the age of Morris’ victim and the length of her abuse.

But in a statement just released to The Roys Report (TRR), the victim, Cindy Clemishire, said she confronted Morris about the abuse in an email sent in 2005. Clemishire added that former Gateway Elder Tom Lane responded to Clemishire’s email, “acknowledging that the sexual abuse began on December 25, 1982, when I was 12 years old.”

In its statement, Gateway’s board of elders said: “The elders’ prior understanding was that Morris’s extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with ‘a young lady’ and not abuse of a 12-year-old child.”

The elders added that they did not know the victim’s age or the length of the alleged abuse.

Circle the wagons and protect the institution, no matter what. Don’t pay attention to the victim, don’t give the victim support by believing her claims (which others knew about). Ignore her, shame her, just make her go away while protecting the cash cow in the pulpit.

You can read Clemishire’s full response here.

36 Responses to “A 12-Year Old Girl Is A Child, No Matter What Any Pastor Claims”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (0c8643)

  2. Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on??

    Dana (fd772a)

  3. Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on??

    Dana (fd772a)

  4. This story is horrifying. The acts themselves are terrible, and they’re made worse by the people ready to minimize and whitewash what he did because of his influence and prominence. Things like this do great damage to the faiths ability to convert ppl and keep them in the church. Your comment about circling the wagons to protect the institution is spot on, and sadly too common.

    This was a good post, but I doubt it will get a lot of discussion. The wrong here is pretty obvious to any decent person and you didn’t bend over backwards to make it part of the left/right culture war.

    Time123 (4eb369)

  5. Thanks for your comments, Time123. I read a lot of comments from church members who are angry with the victim for her flaccid actions. They happened a long time, leave Morris alone, etc. Morris claims that he has ‘walked in purity’ since the child molestation episode. The elders believed him.

    Dana (fd772a)

  6. Hi Dana,

    Posts like this are destined to get these sort of responses:

    1. That’s horrible. Our society is sick.

    2. That’s horrible. Biden is worse and this will happen more often because of Biden.

    3. That’s horrible. Of course this sicko supports Trump.

    Amanda Marcotte in Salon manages a spin that takes this further, suggesting that this behavior has its roots in fundamentalism that seeks out pure women and mistrusts men who don’t indulge in porn and lewd behavior because they might be gay. The argument is gross — and reminds me of the anti-Catholicism that was reborn in the wake of the priest scandals of the last decade.

    As a commenter, I don’t feel impelled to engage on these kind of posts, though I read them and appreciate them. The activity is unarguably awful. What else is there to say?

    Appalled (88a1a3)

  7. There is a temptation to generalize the hypocracy of the megachurch to the whole fundamentalist movement. That’s both too limiting and too broad. Lots of men with power abuse it. Lots of men don’t.

    Appalled (88a1a3)

  8. I’m still horrified, but not surprised, that this goes on. I burned out of the other thread with the usual suspects talking about how it’s OK because “the elders” or something, and handling it in house, then pivoting to whatabouts.

    Child rape is bad.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  9. The Southern Baptist Convention has the same systematic problem in their churches.

    Rip Murdock (6e5f95)

  10. Horrible and awful things here.

    I know that some people use the excuse of appearance (some folks mature physically earlier than others), but this was a grown man.

    Unacceptable.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  11. I agree that calling a girl “young lady” in this context is *ick*
    She has the right to still be upset

    I also understand how the church came to their decision to handle it the way they did back when Morris was a 20 something year old nobody.

    That church probably cares about the bad publicity, but not much about what you think about their church discipline 35 years ago
    Unless Morris has been doing similar things all along but hiding it, by church measure this is a great example of rehabilitative, restorative success of church discipline- for Morris
    The church and the girls Father can’t really say it was a great success for the girl and she should have come first. We’ve heard what the protocol was for Morris, but we have not heard much about what help the church gave the girl and her family.

    My guess is the church and the father of the girl talked it over, prayed about it, came up with some stuff, but left it to the father because it sounds like one of those churches where the church going believer male is head of household and he holds jurisdiction.
    They probably think that it came out OK given it was a shit sandwich and could have gone worse.

    I don’t understand why Morris isn’t bending over backwards for the woman now. She’s still hurt and he can’t fix that, but he can sure let her know he understands why, and that he knows that if he hadn’t done things to her, she would not have this pain still.
    Can’t change what happened then, but what about asking her what she’d like to happen today

    steveg (d59187)

  12. Some posters on the Open Thread have defended the idea that the child rape should be kept “in house” and not reported to the authorities. As it stands now, Morris doesn’t need to worry about being arrested and charged, as the statute of limitations has presumably passed.

    At worst he (and the church) will be sued, but Morris will keep his freedom. . One wonders how many other victims there are.

    Rip Murdock (6e5f95)

  13. Child rape is bad.

    So is bigotry.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  14. Can you explain your comment, Kevin? I’m not sure what point you’re making.

    Nate (cfb326)

  15. Can you explain your comment, Kevin? I’m not sure what point you’re making.

    For the other thread, one commenter asserted that “Anytime a megachurch pastor wants to be your friend, run away screaming” implying that such people were always deviants of some sort. To me, it smacked of the type of hostility to religion, and particularly Protestant Christianity, that is rampant on the left and a prime reason evangelicals do not support Biden.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  16. As the details of the sexual violations came out it indeed made the church look terrible, but extending from one to all is a hallmark of prejudice.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  17. The victim said Morris “began grooming all of us (the whole family) to do this,” steveg. The father had no place deciding to forgivie Morris or letting him avoid society’s criminal law consequences. In fact, the father or family may have wanted to avoid making this public to protect themselves and their rols in what happened, not to protect the victim.

    DRJ (f65e25)

  18. Instead of prejudice, Kevin, it could be some people don’t trust authoritarian narcissists to lead — something Trump and megachurch pastors may have in common.

    DRJ (f65e25)

  19. How many megachurches exist? How many sexual assualt reports were admitted, this week? Gateway, Greater Grace, and The Meeting House, that’s just this week, and it’s only Wednesday.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  20. Child rape is bad.

    So is bigotry.

    Kevin M (a9545f) — 6/19/2024 @ 1:46 pm

    If you can’t tell the difference between the two………

    Rip Murdock (6e5f95)

  21. Some posters on the Open Thread have defended the idea that the child rape should be kept “in house” and not reported to the authorities

    This is indefensible. There is no benefit to doing this, and in fact, simply allows the illegal activity to continue. There is more often than not, more than a single victim. A person who preys on children is always on the lookout for a new victim. Additionally, what sort of message does this send the victim who has come forward. It is just reprehensible that the church leadership would consider this the best way to proceed. All it amounts to is telling one big lie to cover an horrific lie. I don’t imagine God takes too kindly to liars of any stripe, but especially those on the pulpit.

    Dana (fd772a)

  22. Child rape is bad.

    So is bigotry.

    God, I sure hope you’re not equating these.

    Dana (fd772a)

  23. No, I am not. Of course I am not. But one one of those was posted here.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  24. If you have any doubt, I will call out any instance of bigotry that I see. It is really the unthinking reactions of this sort that are the root of all our problems: “othering” of people who disagree with us, or are different from us.

    This goes for a lot of what Trump says, too.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  25. I will happily “other” all child rapists. I guess you’re saying I’m a bigot because I said that it seems that megachurch pastors seem to be an icky bunch, and more prone to child rape.

    To that I say, yes, it seems that they’re an icky bunch and I’m bigotted against rapey people.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  26. There is always an excuse for bigotry. Lazy blacks, greedy Jews, rapey pastors. I get it.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  27. UPDATE?

    A Dallas-area megachurch accepted the resignation of senior pastor Robert Morris on Tuesday after allegations of a past inappropriate relationship with a 12-year-old surfaced last week.

    The Board of Elders of Gateway Church said in a statement Tuesday that prior to June 14, they didn’t have all the facts of the abuse.

    “The elders’ prior understanding was that Morris’s extramarital relationship, which he discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with ‘a young lady’ and not abuse of a 12-year-old child,” the statement reads.

    “Even though it occurred many years before Gateway was established, as leaders of the church, we regret that we did not have the information that we now have.”

    nk (bb1548)

  28. Sorry. I see that Dana had already posted it.

    nk (bb1548)

  29. The church got it right. Apparently he misled them, too.

    DRJ (f65e25)

  30. I hope he misled them I hope they did not turn a blind eye to this until the story got too hot for them to let him stay.

    DRJ (f65e25)

  31. If you have any doubt, I will call out any instance of bigotry that I see.

    Great, Kevin M is going to be the PP scold.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  32. Unless Morris has been doing similar things all along but hiding it, by church measure this is a great example of rehabilitative, restorative success of church discipline- for Morris

    That assumes facts not evidence. It is highly likely that Morris groomed and assaulted others, it would be rare for this to be a “one and done” incident. I’m sure others will come forward over the next several weeks with their own reports about Morris’s sexual grooming and assaults. He’s a predator.

    Rip Murdock (b10aa6)

  33. Cindy confided in a close friend (G.F.) who knew both families. Her friend said she needed to tell her parents.

    Her father was angry and called the head pastor of Shady Grove Church to report Morris.

    He demanded that Morris get out of ministry, or he would call the sheriff. Morris reportedly stepped down from ministry for two years.

    From Dana’s article.

    The church knew, her parents knew, her friends knew, but no one went to the actual authorities. That all the adults in her life allowed a pedephile off shames them.

    Colonel Klink (ret) (96f56a)

  34. This kind of stuff has been going on for a long time. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, instituted the practice of polygamy. One of his wives was 14, and was manipulated into marrying him. From Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Mar_Kimball

    In the spring of 1843, when Helen was 14 years old, her father described the doctrine of plural marriage to her. He asked if she would consent to be “sealed to Joseph”.[8] Helen described her reaction to this proposition:

    My father was the first to introduce it to me, which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann [Whitney] to me as Joseph’s wife.[9]

    Smith gave Helen 24 hours to respond to this request. The girl consented only after Smith explained to her that it would ensure her eternal salvation, along with that of her family. Helen was sealed to Smith in May 1843 when she was 14 and he was 37.

    Emphasis mine.

    When my sister’s husband found out about this, he left the Mormon church (and subsequently divorced my sister, who remains a devout member of the church).

    norcal (ef88b3)

  35. Great, Kevin M is going to be the PP scold.

    I’ve said all I care to on this.

    Kevin M (744866)

  36. The church got it right. Apparently he misled them, too.

    DRJ (f65e25) — 6/19/2024 @ 4:50 pm

    I hope he misled them I hope they did not turn a blind eye to this until the story got too hot for them to let him stay.

    DRJ (f65e25) — 6/19/2024 @ 4:52 pm

    I do not believe that the church got it right. The victim confirmed that at least one elder knew her age, and even acknowledged it. It doesn’t strike me as believable that he would not then inform the other elders. That would be an enormous burden to keep it a secret while going through the whole restoration process with Morris. Additionally, of the elder were in a spiritually healthy place, I don’t imagine that aged would inspire someone to lie by omission about such a critical and illegal act.

    In a statement released to media today, Gateway claimed it did not know the age of Morris’ victim and the length of her abuse.

    But in a statement just released to The Roys Report (TRR), the victim, Cindy Clemishire, said she confronted Morris about the abuse in an email sent in 2005. Clemishire added that former Gateway Elder Tom Lane responded to Clemishire’s email, “acknowledging that the sexual abuse began on December 25, 1982, when I was 12 years old.”

    In its statement, Gateway’s board of elders said: “The elders’ prior understanding was that Morris’s extramarital relationship, which he had discussed many times throughout his ministry, was with ‘a young lady’ and not abuse of a 12-year-old child.”

    The elders added that they did not know the victim’s age or the length of the alleged abuse.

    Dana (985852)

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